8: Become Like Bumblebees

8: Become Like Bumblebees

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Become Like Bumblebees

Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another. And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures.

~Eugene P. Bertin

The tranquil Hawaii night was punctuated by a sad voice, “I hate saying goodbyes. Seriously man, because it makes me feel like crying.” My husband Harry turned to Julian in the back of my car and said in a curious voice, “Are you okay, you drunk or what?” My husband and I were giving Julian, Jorge, and Dio a ride back to their homes in Kalihi after they had competed with students from many countries in the 2006 International Fuel Cell Competition.

Julian slowly said, “I already miss the two boys from Japan. I feel sad, just like when I was leaving China.” Julian’s tearful voice formed a lump in my throat. He sadly said, “When I was in China teaching English to the kids in Baojing, I got so connected to them. As I was leaving, I started crying because the children were running after the minivan waving and shouting.”

Harry replied in a calm voice, “What, did you steal their stuff?” There was silence for a few seconds, and then as we finally understood Harry’s joke, we laughed and laughed all the way to Kalihi. After that night, Julian, Jorge, and Dio became the three musketeers and Harry was the master-teer.

These three boys are a part of my family. I moved to Hawaii from Guyana, South America. In Hawaii I had no ohana (family). For many years, life was pretty lonely but when I became a teacher I started to understand the Hawaiian saying Ike aku, ‘ike mai, kokua aku kokua mai; pela iho la ka nohana ‘ohana. Translation: Recognize others, be recognized, help others, be helped; such is a family relationship. Having no biological children, all my students became my hanai (adopted) children.

When I first introduced Harry to the three musketeers, I knew that my life was never going to be the same. They hit it off! Julian’s imagination is wild and Harry’s is wilder. Jorge and Dio are like the icing and candles on a cake because their presence ignites and enhances the whole experience, making it more memorable and beautiful. The three musketeers formed a special bond and that was the respect and love they had for each other and me. They called me Mom, which at first embarrassed me. Later, I learned to appreciate it.

These three boys came from humble backgrounds and were on free/reduced lunch at the largest public high school in Honolulu, but they became role models for each other and for many other high school students. They never stopped striving for excellence because they wanted to make me proud. They hold a special place in my heart and they remind me of what being a teacher is all about and how grateful students are for our guidance.

I had met Jorge one afternoon after school when I ran into this tiny kid with pliers and a multimeter in the hallway of the science building. I asked, “What’s up with all the tools?” He said that he was working on an Invention Factor Project to make toys more electronically viable for kids with disabilities. I was impressed. I told him that if he ever wanted to work on more projects he should stop by. Jorge stopped by the very next day and has never stopped coming, even though he graduated from high school. He is a Filipino boy who started high school with many academic disadvantages. He was placed into Hale Kulia, where the students need extra help with their academics. I used his love of computers to enable him. Jorge became one of the best programmers that our school ever produced, leading our Robotics Team to second place in the Hawaii Pacific Regional. He has overcome most of his academic challenges.

I met Dio and Julian when two boys, one Filipino and one Chinese, walked into my classroom during lunch, pushing each other forward and arguing about who should go first. This was after I was named the 2005 Milken Family Foundation National Educator. They said that they were proud of me and asked if I could help them with their schoolwork.

Dio sees my husband Harry as a father figure because his dad died before he was born. The week that I was to take Dio to the International Fuel Cell Competition, I spoke with his mother. She said, “Ms. Davis, my son has never been away from me. He is my only child and all my joy; if anything happens to him, I don’t know what I would do. I know that my Dio is getting older and needs to go out and experience things.” I couldn’t breathe because of the pain and emotion in her voice. “Dio loves you and always tells me how well you treat them. So, I trust you to take good care of my son.” I still remember that feeling.

Dio and Julian were a couple of rascals and they never stopped embarrassing me in front of large groups by going on stage and shouting out, “Ms. Davis we love you, thank you, you are the best!” Dio went on to UC Davis on a Gates Scholarship, but often shows up in my classroom and surprises me by covering my eyes and making me guess who it is.

Julian’s parents do not speak English and did not graduate from high school, so Julian set out to achieve what many deemed impossible at Farrington High School. This is what he said in his valedictorian speech (reprinted with permission from Julian Yuen):

The Chinese often use the word keku. It means to overcome hardship, a trait that is used to gauge a person’s inner strength. Keku includes the ability to swallow the bitterness without complaining. I truly believe each of us has had to overcome the bitterness in our lives. Whether it was with family, friends, school, or even within ourselves, there were times where we felt like it was the end. But something inside kept us going; that burning desire telling us that this is not the end, and that we must keep fighting. Ms. Davis, thank you for helping me overcome the adversities in my life, giving me so many opportunities, and now I’m off to MIT and tomorrow, NASA, all because you had the belief that I could really accomplish something in life.…

A wise Chinese boy once said, “Think like a bumblebee. Do as a bumblebee.” Because, according to science, because of the size, weight, and shape of the bumblebee’s body, it should be scientifically impossible for it to fly. But as we can all see, these little bees continue to buzz around, flapping their little wings throughout the world. No one told the bumblebee that it’s not supposed to fly; but they don’t know that so they continue to fly anyway, regardless of what science may say. So remember, as we embark on our journey to success, society may stereotype us because of where we are from. But like the bumblebee, we do not know of this stereotype, and instead, we choose to keep on flying, until we reach our goals, and some more. Whatever the negativity we may encounter, bring it on. Cause we’re from Kalihi, and we can tackle any brick walls that come our way; because we know brick walls are there to test how badly we want something; and believe me, we all want it real bad.

As a teacher I know that feeling; I hate saying goodbye to my students but I love to see them become like bumblebees.

~Bebi Davis
2009 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year
2009 Pacific Teacher of the Year
Physics, Chemistry, grades 9-12

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